a steel reserve campaign diary story
a steel reserve campaign diary story
This is part of the Steel Reserve Campain Diary series. There will be spoilers for Lost Mines of Phandelver.
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Gundren Rockseeker hires local adventuring group Steel Reserve to escort a cart of goods from Neverwinter to Phandalin. Gundren and his pal Sildar go on ahead on horseback and will meet them there.
Our scene opens on the High Road. Ducky, the newest and still unproven member of the squad, is at the reins of the wagon. She is a small gnomish woman with wild frizzy hair and a huge nose. At her side, hopping from one foot to the other, is her companion Thatso, a black raven.
Sitting in the back of the cart with the supplies is the rest of the Reserve.
Buldrick, a handsome Eladrin from the feywild is brooding and rolling some ball bearings around in the palm of his hand. His katanas are strapped to his back.
Fisty McKnuckles, a red tiefling, one of the rare kinds with wings, has got his nose in his mystic Book of Shadows, pondering its contents. Were he not so enraptured by his studies, the darkness of his own brooding would outclass even that of Buldrick’s.
Hiro Protagonist, noble dragonborn, his scales a much darker, more metallic shade of red than that of Fisty’s apple colored skin, shifts uncomfortably. To a man of action such as he, time spent idle is time wasted.
Dug Hammerhound, a stout dwarf in full armor is diligently tinkering away with some scraps of metal, magically folding and shaping them with no forge and no fire.
And finally Tumutch Dijon, a paladin of the Silver Flame is good naturedly tuning his bagpipes, secretly hoping somebody will ask him to favor them with a tune.
But no one does, and their time on the road passes for the most part uneventfully.
During one of the first nights camped on the side of the road, a lone goblin timidly creeps into the glow of the campfire. It is immediately recognizable as a member of the local Cragmaw clan, and is famished and near exhaustion. The band cautiously welcome it into their cirle and give it something to eat.
He introduces himself as Gronk, and tells them that conditions are currently quite bad for the Cragmaw. The tyrannical King Grol is spending what precious little resources they have on his beloved direwolves while goblins go hungry. To feed themselves, they’re forced to increase their raids on travelers and caravans.
After eating and resting, Gronk steals away in the middle of the night while his new friends sleep.
The next morning, the Reserve breaks camp and continues on their way.
A couple days later in the evening, they come upon the camp of a loud and revelrous group of humans. As they approach, they are hailed and bid welcome to join their campfire. They do, and together they all do a lot of drinking and merry making.
Carl, the leader of the camp tells them over drinks that they are from Phandalin, where they had earned a living committing petty crimes and causing mischief. He goes on to tell them of a rival gang, previously also harmless revelers, who are, under the leadership of a Mysterious New Leader, now committing more serious and vile crimes.
In fact, it is out of fear of this new, violent Redbrand Gang that Carl and his Bluebrand Gang is fleeing Phandalin.
The revelry continues into the night!
Ducky plays a dangerous game of Stabby Hands with some of the rogues. Thanks to her own nimbleness and some subtle divine guidance from Dug, she manages to keep all of her fingers, and even wins some gold in the process!
In a feat of bravado, Buldrick challenges one of the brigands to an arm wrestling match.
Carl, deep in his cups at this point, sells a forgery kit to the party for a song.
Eventually everybody falls asleep wherever they happened to be.
The Bluebrands managed to wake up early, pack up, and leave before any of the Reserve even stirs.
They start to become used to waking up alone after spending the night with new friends.
Back in the cart and continuing on their way, the Reserve comes upon a scene. At a wide part of the road, a pair of dead horse are strewn across the trail, blocking further progress.
Upon approaching, they recognize the horses and the gear as belonging to their employer and his partner, Gundren Rockseeker and Sildar!
Just then, arrows fly from the treeline, as a couple of bugbears each lead a small squad of Cragmaw goblins and direwolves into the clearing.
There are a lot of them, and they are reasonably well disciplined, but they are outmatched.
One squad falls beneath Buldrick’s katanas and Hiro’s samurai sword. The other to Dug’s hammer and Tumutch’s longsword.
Hanging further back, Fisty hammers them with eldritch blasts while Ducky–finally proving herself to her new team–recites incantations from her spellbook as terrible peals from beyond the grave ripple through and shatter goblins.
Finally, as some of the goblin hoard are trying to flee, she mows them down with a few desperate magic missiles.
One lone goblin remains cowering and groveling in the aftermath. Fisty approaches him, wading through the goblin’s fallen comrades. He soothes him with a few whispered words, and the fear visibly leaves the goblin as Fisty magically brings him under his influence.
The mental strain is visible as the goblin entertains two competing thoughts:
Fisty is my pal. We’ve been buddies for a long time. He wouldn’t hurt me.
Fisty and his friends just murdered all of my friends.
Adding to this conflict is that Buldrick, child of twilight from the Feywild, makes constant threats to bodily harm the goblin. He demonstrates by starting to press one of his ball bearings under the goblin’s fingernail. Fisty stops him and theatrically laughs off the assault, assuring the goblin that it was all in jest.
Upon being questioned, the goblin nervously tells the Reserve–half out of friendship, half out of fear–what happened to Gundren and Sildar.
King Grol, from within Cragmaw Castle deep in the woods, ordered his commander, Klarg, to capture and deliver Gundren to him. Sildar was not part of the order, so he was escorted back to the nearby Cragmaw hideout. Presumably for eating because rations are so scarce for the hoard.
Upon learning all this, Hiro, man of action, draws his samurai sword to end the goblin.
Fisty frantically gestures to Hiro to stop, but it’s too late. The goblin has seen the huge dragonborn come at him with his sword, and with that his feeble mind snaps and whatever remaining influence Fisty had over him is gone.
Right as the goblin turns to run for the tree line, Tumutch marks him and tells the Reserve that he is confident he can track him, and that if they let him go he might lead them to the hideout and to Sildar.
They decline, and Ducky reluctantly plunges one magic dart after the other into the poor goblin’s back.
Having a rough idea of where both the castle and the hideout are from their conversation with their late goblin friend, the Reserve decides that Gundren must have been summoned because he is valuable and his life is probably not, temporarily at least, in danger. Meanwhile, Sildar’s life is of no value to the goblins, whereas his flesh is of great nutritional value.
They decide to try to find the hideout and rescue Sildar. Then Gundren.
They cover their cart on the side of the road the best they can, and leave a couple of Hiro’s retainers behind to guard it. They head off in to the woods, to the best of their knowledge in the direction of the hideout.
They know they are on the right track when they are surprised by a small bugbear patrol. They quickly overpower the bugbears and dispose of them, but now know that they must be much more cautious.
They slow their pace down as Ducky sends Thatso out ahead of them to scout for traps and patrols.
Their precautions pay off as they find and dismantle several traps and prevent several more ambushes.
Their path leads them along a riverbank, which eventually makes a sharp u-bend and flows into the mouth of a cave.
As they approach what must be the Cragmaw hideout, they come across a hobgoblin patrol. Fisty unfurls his wings and takes to the air, providing cover for the melee party as they attack. Ducky falls back and does the same from atop a rock.
At the toughest part of the battle, a large lizardfolk leaps out of the water and starts attacking the hobgoblins, fighting alongside the Reserve.
When the last hobgoblin has fallen, the lizardfolk introduces himself as Mayonez the Slav, enemy of goblinoids, and offers to join the Reserve in clearing out the hideout.
In agreement, the team turns toward the cave entrance.